The Russell Westbrook experiment was disastrous for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2021-22 season. But it may get an encore nonetheless.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the "notion of Westbrook remaining part of their program is seeming more real all the time."
The issue for the Lakers is that Westbrook's massive contract—he has a $47.4 million player option that he's expected to pick up—makes him nearly impossible to trade without attaching some sweeteners.
Instead, the organization has reportedly been asking incoming coaching candidates how they would plan to best utilize Westbrook's skill set, per Amick:
"Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews. The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook's presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job."
That's no small task.
It would be unfair to solely blame Westbrook for the Lakers' horrid 33-49 season. Both Davis and LeBron James struggled to stay on the court because of injuries, and the roster construction left the Lakers short on the sort of perimeter defenders and three-point shooters needed to get the most out of their stars.
But Westbrook was a tough watch, averaging 18.5 points, his lowest total since the 2009-10 season. He added 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, but he shot only 44.4 percent from the floor, 29.8 percent from three and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line.
It didn't take long to see that Westbrook was a tough fit next to James and AD. As the season wore on it, appeared that his confidence was eroding, to the point that he was even bricking dunks.
Given his ball-dominant playing style throughout his career and his inability to space the floor, he was always going to be a tough fit next to James in particular. Those concerns were borne out.
Perhaps former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel didn't devise the best system to minimize those stylistic clashes. He paid the price, serving as the organization's scapegoat after the season. But sometimes, players are just a square peg in a system that's a round hole.
In this case, however, the square peg costs more than $47 million.